Sara Wheeler

Does William Barents deserve to have a sea named after him?

Andrea Pitzer thinks so, though the explorer’s failed attempts to find a route to China ended in mutiny, starvation and his own early death

They thought it would be warm: William Barents and his crew among the Arctic ice. Illustration after Gerard de Veer’s 1598 account of the three voyages. Credit: Getty Images

Narratives of frozen beards in polar hinterlands never lose their appeal. Most of the good stories have been told, but in Icebound Andrea Pitzer fills a gap, at least for the popular reader in English, with the story of the 16th-century Dutch mariner William Barents. He sailed further north than any man before him and lives still, on the map, with an eponymous sea off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia.

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